While motorhome insurance is similar to car insurance, there are a few things worth getting clued up on before choosing a provider for your shiny new motorhome. We’ve created this ultimate guide to motorhome owners’ insurance to help you better understand motorhome insurance so that you can choose the best provider and policy for you and your circumstances.
|This article is intended to give general guidance only - not to make recommendations. While we’ve made every attempt to ensure that all information in this article is correct at the time of writing, we strongly advise you to do your own due diligence including carefully reviewing any insurance policy you are considering before committing.|
The information in this guide was sourced from the policies and quotes supplied by the top four motorhome insurance providers in New Zealand: Covi, Star, AMI and AA.
While some companies that offer car insurance also offer motorhome insurance, it’s likely that you haven’t dealt with the specialist motorhome insurance providers. Specialist motorhome insurers like Covi and Star are a popular choice as they have more knowledge of the motorhome market than the general insurers. A few general insurance providers such as AMI and AA with well-established reputations also offer motorhome insurance.
Motorhome insurance companies offer several cover options for you to choose from with varying premiums which reflect the level of risk they are taking by insuring you. A motorhome is more like a home on wheels than just a vehicle so there’s a lot more components to be covered in policies such as contents and furnishings. We’ve discussed factors to look for when choosing your insurance policy in detail below.
Do I need insurance for my motorhome?
While motorhome insurance is not legally required in New Zealand, it is highly recommended for several reasons. Motorhomes are high value items and just like cars, the time they spend on the road puts them at risk of damage from accidents and other events. Due to their large size, motorhomes are also often stored outside which may be less secure than storage in a garage. Without insurance, you will be the one forking out the repair or replacement money should something happen to your motorhome even if you did nothing wrong. Having insurance gives you peace of mind about not having to dip into your own pocket when your motorhome is damaged or stolen.
What does motorhome insurance cover?
Motorhome insurance is sometimes described as a cross between car and house insurance. In addition to the base vehicle, motorhome body and all it’s parts (e.g. skylights, roof vents, locker doors), cover typically includes the standard factory installed furniture and equipment (e.g. fridge, stove, heater), accessories (items permanently fitted to or sold with the motorhome such as reversing cameras, solar panels, awnings and satellite dishes) and modifications that your insurance provider has agreed to cover (e.g. custom paintwork). It also covers liability for damages and accidental injury of someone else involved in an accident.
You can also add extras to your policy including roadside assistance, trailer cover and cover for extras that may not be included in the base policy.
If you’re a full time motorhomer i.e. your motorhome is your primary place of residence, you’ll need to check with the insurance providers that the insurance policy covers this as not all policies do. The same applies for using your motorhome as a base for work.
Motorhome insurance only covers incidents in New Zealand during the insured period. So if you’re planning to ship your motorhome to Australia for a big tour, you’ll need to get separate cover.
What cover options are available?
Motorhome insurance comes with several cover options with varying terms and premiums for each. Like car insurance, most motorhome insurance providers offer both comprehensive and third party cover. Specialist motorhome insurers are also more likely to offer additional cover such as third party fire, theft and illegal conversion and storage cover.
This is the most complete insurance option, insuring you for accidental physical loss and damage to your motorhome. It also generally covers loss or damage as a result of fire, theft or illegal conversion (someone borrowing your motorhome and using it without your consent). All four insurance providers we looked at offer comprehensive cover.
Third party cover
Third party cover gives you the bare minimum cover and therefore, the lowest premium. It only covers you against damage you cause to someone else’s vehicle or property (your legal liability). It does not cover any loss to your motorhome unless it is caused by an accident where an uninsured third party was at fault. Third party cover is often preferred by owners of inexpensive motorhomes who want to keep their premiums as low as possible. Covi, Star and AA offer this option.
Third party fire, theft and illegal conversion
This is an in-between level of cover for when you only want cover for accidental physical loss due to fire, theft or illegal conversion and from collisions with uninsured vehicles. Only Star and Covi offer this cover option.
If your motorhome is parked up for a while and you’re not intending to use it for holidays, this option is worth considering as the premiums are lower than the more comprehensive options. This may include when your motorhome is in storage for a length of time, when it is being restored (but not driven) and when it is in transit on another vehicle (although this is sometimes included in comprehensive cover). Only Star offers this cover option.
How is my premium decided?
The four most important factors in determining what premium you’ll pay for motorhome insurance are the value of your motorhome, the level of cover you choose, the excess you choose, and any cover you add to the base policy for specific high value items. A comprehensive policy will provide you with the highest level of cover and come with a higher premium than third party cover. Like other insurance policies, you can lower your premium by taking on more of the risk yourself by opting for a higher excess. If you have added expensive extras and accessories to your motorhome such as aftermarket suspension or energy systems, you should consider adding these to your policy if they are not covered in the base policy.
We have found that insurers are reluctant to share too much information on how their premiums are determined beyond the type of cover offered and the valuation of the motorhome. The cost of your motorhome insurance premium depends on the risk the motorhome will be damaged. Some circumstances are shown to increase the risk of damage to your motorhome so will result in a higher premium, for example parking your motorhome on the road each night will incur a higher premium than if it were parked in a secure garage or out of sight from the road due to increased risk of theft or damage.
From our research, it’s clear that a few other factors have a bearing on what you’ll pay. These include who drives the motorhome and their license type. Drivers over 25 who have held a full New Zealand drivers license for more than two years will enjoy lower premiums than younger international drivers who have held their licenses for a shorter period.
Who offers motorhome insurance?
The two major players who insure the vast majority of privately owned motorhomes in New Zealand are Covi and Star Insurance (previously called Campercare). Because they specialise in motorhome insurance, they both understand the risk of insuring motorhomes better than non-specialist insurance companies like AA, AMI and Tower. This means that, in most circumstances, they can offer more extensive cover and lower premiums. Tower only offers insurance for motorhomes or campervans under 3000kg so has not been considered in our discussion below.
Covi is the most well-known provider in the specialised motorhome insurance market, due in no small part to their backing from the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA). Star Insurance is a lesser-known specialist offering highly customisable insurance policies for your campervan or motorhome.
Both companies have good reputations and we’ve experienced great customer service from both. They are also easier to get through to on the phone (in our experience!) due to lower call volume than the general insurance providers.
The general insurance providers like AA and AMI offer motorhome and campervan insurance as part of their suite of insurance options. They treat motorhome insurance much like standard car insurance with some extra clauses.
The major drawback of general insurance providers is that they don’t understand campervans and motorhomes as well as the specialist providers who make a living from dealing with recreational vehicles. The non-specialist providers we looked at treat campervans and motorhomes like big cars i.e. they have a body and an engine plus seats and other equipment for safety, comfort and entertainment. Motorhomes and campervans have this equipment plus much more.
Typically, when a company insures an item that they’re not that familiar with, they will try to reduce their risk by having lots of exclusions (see below) and charging higher premiums. Also, you’ll be dealing with call centre staff who are not as familiar with motorhome ownership so customer service may not be as good. This may also mean a slower claims process.
Factors to consider when choosing an insurance policy
We have compared and contrasted a few key sections of motorhome insurance policies to highlight a few areas you’ll want to focus on. In particular, we have looked at the base insurance policy including determining the insurance value of your motorhome and cover for fixtures, fittings and accessories. We have also reviewed added value services including roadside assistance, emergency accommodation and travel after an accident, contents cover, glass cover, trailer cover and any additional extras plus the reputation of the various insurers. While we’ve attempted to make a thorough review of the policies we looked at, make sure you read each policy carefully before making your own decisions.
Your base insurance policy
The clauses in the base insurance policy you’ll want to take a close look at include how the insurance value of your motorhome is determined, what contents are covered and up to what limits, what fixtures, fittings and accessories are covered and up to what limits, and what the cover is for glass (not just windscreens and windows).
Determining the insurance value of your motorhome
You need to feel comfortable with the insurance value of your motorhome as not only will it determine the amount you will be paid out if your motorhome is considered unrepairable, it also has a large bearing on the amount of premium you will pay. The insurance value is called the agreed value i.e. the amount you and your insurer agree the motorhome is worth. If your motorhome is new, the amount you paid for it will usually be the agreed value. If your motorhome is older, an independent valuation is often used to determine the value. This is because there’s no motorhome industry database of vehicle value based on make, model, mileage and age as there is in the car industry.
Specialist insurers Covi and Star require an initial valuation from an official list of valuers. AA and AMI will adjust your agreed value each year based on their own estimations of market value.
You can insure your motorhome at a lower value than it's worth but remember, your payout will be lower should it be totalled.
As motorhomes depreciate, the insured value should be reviewed from time to time to make sure you’re not paying too much. Covi and Star will both maintain your agreed value for five years or until you want to get it revalued. This means that as long as your premium doesn’t increase during the five year period, the amount you are paid out if the motorhome is written off doesn’t reduce even though your motorhome has depreciated.
It’s a good idea to relook at the value of your motorhome before your annual renewal comes around.
Contents cover is for items which are owned by you and permanently kept in your motorhome such as unfixed furniture, furnishings, rugs, lamps, blinds and curtains, domestic appliances not permanently plumbed into or wired into your motorhome, crockery, cutlery, utensils, bedding and linen. It does not generally include jewellery and personal effects.
As with home contents insurance, the value of these items can add up so it’s useful to take time to list out your motorhome’s contents and total up what it would cost to replace them. That way you’ll ensure that you have sufficient contents cover in case of a serious event such as a fire.
All four providers will cover replacement value of your contents but their cover varies dramatically - from $2000 to $10,000 per event. Star has the highest level of cover for single items with replacement value up to $3000 per item.
Remember, if you have items in your motorhome worth more than the maximum cover per single item, you should get these listed on your policy as you would with home contents insurance.
Cover for fixtures, fittings and accessories
Fixtures, fittings and accessories are defined as the items you’d sell with the vehicle, e.g. furniture, awnings and fridges.
Both Covi and Star will pay out the market value of fittings and fixtures and depreciated value for awnings. AA and AMI do not have separate clauses on these as they are included as part of your motorhome.
Glass cover can include anything from windscreens and sunroofs to headlights on your motorhome, depending on the policy. Specialist insurers generally have a more broad definition of glass and offer cover for more parts of your motorhome. They may include cover for perspex as well as glass since headlight covers and the windows in the habitation unit are usually made of perspex rather than glass.
This may be one of the most important sections of the policy for you to examine if you own an A class or fully-integrated motorhome which may have a large windscreen which is costly to replace.
All four providers offer glass cover with no excess but the type of glass covered varies. Covi and Star both offer cover on the windscreen, sunroofs, headlights or window glass or perspex including bodywork that has been scratched or damaged as a result of glass damage. AMI and AA exclude the headlights and perspex part of this as well as mirrors. AMI additionally excludes sunroofs, glass roofs and lamp covers.
Neither Covi nor Star have a limit in what they will pay out for glass.
Equally important as what your base policy covers is what it doesn’t cover. It always pays to read your policy closely since motorhome insurance, like most policies, has a long list of exclusions. Some common exclusions include:
- Breakdown or failure - including mechanical, electrical and electronic
- Bodily injury - this is covered by other insurance types
- Drivers under 25 - sometimes covered if the insurance company is aware of them
- Unlicensed drivers - including those not following their license conditions
- Faulty workmanship
- Unoccupied for more than 30 days unless in storage facility
- Use of incorrect fuel type
- Accidents involving driving under the influence drugs and illegal levels of alcohol or damage from contamination by unlawful substances
- Accidents that resulted from reckless driving or where you left the scene when it was an offence to do this
- Knowingly driving your vehicle in unsafe or damaged condition
- Non-accident related tyre damage from braking, punctures, cuts or bursts
- Loss of use - unless you added on a rental vehicle option
- Wear, tear and depreciation
- If you hire your motorhome out, carry fare paying customers or race or test on it.
- Pollution, contamination, water or pest damage
- Nuclear radiation, war or terrorism related losses
Added value services on your insurance policy
Added value services in your motorhome insurance policy are helpful extras that are frequently offered to comprehensive policy holders for free or paid options that are not part of the base insurance policy such as emergency accommodation after a breakdown. These are the “nice-to-haves” in your policy so don’t be swayed by the add ons and ignore the base policy.
As with the roadside assistance service provided by your car insurer, motorhome insurers may offer help when you breakdown as a part of your policy.
There is usually a limit on the number of callouts you can have per year and limits on how much can be paid per callout.
All four companies we looked at offer some form of roadside assistance, but aside from Star’s free roadside assistance provided by NZRA, all come at an extra cost.
In terms of costs covered, Covi Wings Roadside assistance is the most generous covering you for $200 payout per callout. This will cost you $57 per year. Star is next best - covering you for $150 per incident requiring towing, and $100 for an incident without towing. Unlike the others, AA Motorhome Plus roadside assistance does not limit the number of callouts but has a yearly annual claim cap of $1500 for $75 per year. AMI Standard Breakdown Service is $32 per year for 3 call outs but is unlikely to be useful for many motorhome owners with no cover for motorhomes 3000kg and above.
If you’re happy with the base policy of your preferred motorhome insurer but not the roadside assistance add on, you can purchase this service separate from your motorhome insurance.
Emergency Accommodation and Travel After an Accident
Some insurance providers will cover the cost of getting you back home if your motorhome can no longer take you there after an accident. They can also cover you for accommodation costs if you are not able to get home, or your motorhome is your accommodation.
Covi provides cover for transportation to get you home from the accident site up to $1500. If you live in your motorhome, you can claim up to $700 per week for temporary accommodation while your motorhome is unusable for no more than 7 weeks. Star will pay up to $10,000 for moving your motorhome to safety, returning it home after repairs and accommodation if it cannot be driven. AMI will pay “reasonable costs” of transporting yourself and your passengers and your motorhome home. No temporary accommodation allowance is mentioned. And AA will pay for up to $500 of temporary accommodation per claim for you and your passengers if you cannot return to where you are staying and reasonable costs for emergency repairs so you can get your motorhome to your destination or a repairer and return your motorhome to your home.
If you tow a trailer behind your motorhome, you’ll want to look at trailer cover. Some insurers include cover for trailers in their policies although this usually excludes horse floats, boat trailers or caravans, only general use trailers.
Covi offers a Free Trailer Benefit which covers loss or damage to any trailer, not otherwise insured, up to the lesser of market value or $1500. This does not insure the contents of the trailer. Star is more generous with insurance for a trailer of up to $3000. AMI will cover up to the market value of your trailer, or $600, whichever is the lesser. AA has no specific cover for a trailer attached to your motorhome.
Covi insurance is backed by the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) so supporting the company that contributes to the association is important for some motorhome owners. Covi also offers their customers discounts programme on various motorhome related products and services such as entertainment systems, corrosion proofing and motorhome magazine subscriptions.
While low premiums are a major consideration when choosing an insurer deciding between motorhome insurance options, you’ll also want to carefully consider each company’s reputation for paying out claims as well as the financial strength rating of the company they are financially backed by when making your decision.
Claim payout reputation
When something does go wrong, you’ll want to know that your insurer will respond quickly, investigate the event and pay you out so you can undertake any repairs and get back to enjoying your motorhome. It’s difficult to get an accurate picture of reputation in the insurance industry so it’s a good idea to check multiple sources including online reviews and the experiences of your motorhoming friends.
All of the insurers we reviewed during our research had good online reviews. Star has a great reputation for paying out quickly and quickly helping out policy holders in trouble based on their almost 5 star rating from several hundred reviewers on Google and Facebook. Covi also has a good reputation among motorhome owners but has fewer reviews. AMI and AA also both have a good payout reputation, earning 4 stars on Canstar.
While we cannot recommend a motorhome insurance policy for you, we hope that arming you with this information will help you to make your own informed decision. By working through the sections above and carefully considering policy documents, you’ll be one step closer to making a more informed decision on what insurance to choose. Insurance premiums are an important aspect to making a choice about motorhome insurance. However, there are also a range of other important factors to consider when choosing a provider. Exclusions are also an important part of any policy and worth a close look before choosing a provider.
Now you’re ready to start making the calls to motorhome insurers with all the right questions to ask.
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